John – The International Core Curriculum Beijing Program – ACU Winter Break 2016
If there was ever a country to study abroad in, China is definitely the way to go. I won’t lie, on top of being excited at being accepted, I was very nervous at the prospect of entering a country in which the English language was a concept not very familiar among the Chinese people. However, although the language barrier was a difficulty, I can safely speak among my fellow classmates who attended that a great time was had by all through all aspects of the trip, whether it was scaling the mighty steps of the Great Wall of China in Beijing, to the Terracotta warriors museum in Xian or walking along the Bund in Shanghai. The first thing upon arriving in China around 5:30 in the morning that bewildered me was the early sun rise. The country seemingly has a midday sun around five in the morning which made it all that easier to awake and attend those 9am classes. The itinerary was full on with cultural engagement almost every day, however you would come to the realisation about how blessed you were to attend the trip as I imagine that the cost to do everything as a solo traveller would be around five times more than the ACU program fee. I know people rave on about how bad the pollution was in China, but let me tell you, you can see it sometimes in the air but you won’t even notice it one bit, especially due to the great itinerary which keeps you rather busy.
On the first week of the trip we hit the ground running and were immediately exposed to the cultural world of China as well as what it had to offer. The Beijing Center (TBC) were fantastic hosts to us, especially Bill who was closely associated with us in virtually all aspects of the trip. From our orientation dinner, we got a nice program handbook that detailed local restaurants, shopping centres, tourist attractions such as the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace as well as a guide on how to navigate the train system in China. Within the first week, I came to the realisation that you should abandon the idea that you are going to use a knife and fork throughout the whole trip because you will have to learn how to use the mighty chopsticks pretty quickly and you will eat essentially all your meals with them. A handy tip for those attending the next trip would be to always eat in groups, as many of the restaurants I ate at had a revolving centre in which you could place your plate of food and move it around to share the food around. This method we found was rather cost effective as well as a good way to gauge the tastes of many dishes in the trip. Also forget about using the websites you’re used to here such as YouTube and Facebook, China has a ban on websites like that, but fear not, the WeChat app provides a way for you to communicate to your fellow classmates if you wanted to go out with dinner with them or explore tourist places such as the Lama temple.
We studied the UNCC 300 unit as well as learnt basic words of the Chinese language and key figures of the philosophical roots of China in the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE). It was rather enjoyable especially engaging in meaningful discussions which opened up into interesting debates within the classroom and forged many friendships. UIBE itself was a rather large university with a stadium within it as well dormitories, supermarkets and cafes. It took some getting used to, but my classmates and I manage to navigate UIBE successfully especially since TBC were kind enough to provide a map of the university itself within our program handbook, many thanks to TBC once again! If you’re worried about finding places to eat at, don’t be, as the university itself is surrounded by a plentiful amount of restaurants to fuel those keen studying abroad stomachs.
Highlights of the trip would definitely have to be visiting the tourist attractions such as the Temple of Heaven and learning the art of Tai Chi there, as well as scaling a small portion of the mighty Great Wall of China (I have never sweated so much in my life in the scorching heat that surrounded us!). During our trip to the Great wall, we had the option of getting a chair lift up to the great wall in which you could view the mountainous terrain surrounding the verdant land as well get a toboggan slide back down the wall, both of which I’d highly recommend ! Doing the 14km bike ride around the ancient city wall of Xi’an would be one of the highlights of my trip as it offered the chance to observe the city of Xi’an from a different perspective and see many parts of the city in one bike trip. The walk along the Bund in Shanghai provided a more Western perspective of China with its shopping centres as well as the beautiful view from the bay in which you can enjoy a rather nice walk around.
To conclude, I cannot thank ACU enough for this once in a lifetime experience that has made me very keen to study abroad more to enhance my cultural experience in regards to my future profession. On top of studying the core unit in China, touring the country and learning how to use chopsticks, I will also be forever grateful to the faculty members that attended and especially to my fellow classmates who made the trip as brilliant as it was. I would highly recommend that everyone should apply for this trip as it would definitely be an experience that one would not forget.